Ruling: Local churches can't keep property

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. The ruling not only affects Saint James Anglican Church in Newport Beach, but also All Saints Anglican Church in Long Beach and Saint David's Church in North Hollywood.

/*St. James Church*/ in Newport Beach, /*All Saints Anglican Church*/ in Long Beach, /*St. David's Church*/ in North Hollywood, are three parishes that may soon lose their homes after breaking away From the U.S. Episcopal Church. This week the /*California Supreme Court*/ ruling unanimously that breakaway parishes can't legally hang on to church property.

/*Justice Ming Chin*/ wrote: "When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it."

Attorney /*Eric Sohlgren*/ represents the three breakaway Southland churches. He says the /*Episcopal Church*/ never contributed any money to buy the three properties at issue.

"Anyone who owns property in California would probably find that a ruling that which takes away their property without their permission, property that they have paid for, that they've maintained for many, many decades is not really fair," said Sohlgren.

The Episcopal Church has some 77 million members worldwide. When openly gay /*Bishop Gene Robinson*/ was ordained in New Hampshire in 2003, it set off conflict within the church, leading to some 100 breakaway parishes nationwide. The California Supreme Court ruled this week that the three Southland properties belong to the Episcopal Church because the parishes agreed to follow the umbrella church's rules.

The decision could also have an impact on /*St. Luke's of the Mountains*/ Anglican Church in Crescenta Valley, which is also now involved in a lawsuit over church property.

The /*Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church*/ declined an Eyewitness news request for an interview, though it has publicly supported the ruling. A lawyer representing the Diocese told the Daily News: "This was a thorough and conclusive ruling."

Lawyers for the breakaway churches say despite the state supreme court ruling, They will continue the battle in lower courts.



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